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Only a little while ago, we published a story about Apple’s (s aapl) inconsistent review process for the App Store. In that case, the question was one of imagery, and focused on some icons that Apple seemed to be of two minds about. Well, inconsistency is one thing, but their latest gaffe represents an entirely different kind of failing. In a move that garnered worldwide attention, Apple yesterday approved and then later removed an app called “Baby Shaker.”
If you aren’t already aware of the details of the app, it basically allowed users to simulate shaking a baby to death on their iPhone or iPod touch. On screen, you saw a pencil-drawn animation of a baby that would progressively move less and less as you shook your phone, until big red X’s would appear over its eyes and it would stop moving altogether, at which point the baby is presumably dead. Even just describing what the app does is horrific, let alone actually playing it.
It’s surprising, then, that such an app would sneak by Apple’s generally very conservative App Store review process. The very same process which, until recently, wouldn’t allow fart noises or overtly sexually suggestive material within their hallowed walls. Infanticide, though? No problem.
The quick removal of the app seems to suggest that its approval in the first place was a mistake or an oversight, and that in general, Apple is definitely not in favor of depicting this sort of thing on their platform. Nonetheless, it was there, it was live, and at least some people downloaded it before its removal. Advocacy and awareness groups are up in arms, and they’re looking for an explanation from Apple for why this could be allowed to happen.
I’d like an explanation, too. How about we celebrate the billionth app downloaded (imagine if it actually was Baby Shaker?) with some transparency regarding your review process? Because as of right now, considering this screw-up, the Instapaper/Pocket God issue, and the Tweetie misunderstanding regarding foul language, it seems like there are 10 guys at the office who draw straws to see who’s in charge of policy for the day.
On a slow news day like yesterday, something like Baby Shaker can quickly obscure any other message you might be trying to get across, like how much money you’re raking in, for instance. Apple would be wise to put a cap on this sort of thing before it starts interfering with bigger, more important messages, like new product announcements, for instance. Establish a clear and straightforward review process, with redundancies and checks and balances, and let developers know what the pipleline looks like. Do it now, before it taints people’s anticipation of your 3.0 release.